MADE YOU UP

Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8 Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex fights a daily battle to decipher what is real and whamade you upt is not.  And after an extremely unfortunate incident, Alex is ready for a fresh start at a new school where no one recognises her. Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love. But her inability to separate her delusions from reality is always just under the surface, and it could have disastrous consequences for the people closest to her. 

 

 

I got Made You Up for Christmas, and it’s taken me all this time to finish it. (Mainly because I read a bit, put it down, and got distracted by life and other books before grudgingly deciding I should probably start reading it again.) I managed to get through it quite quickly, but not because it was a page-turner, but because I was keen to get through the thing. Because if I’m completely honest… nothing about it really grabbed my attention.

The premise intrigued me. I liked the idea of trying to work out if the people and situations Alex encountered were real or not, but this presented itself as a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gave an insight into the mindset of someone suffering from schizophrenia and what a terrifying experience that must be, but on the other, it was difficult to get invested in any of the characters on the chance they might only exist in her head – helped along by the fact some weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. (I did have a theory on one character which turned out to be true, but like I said, I was suspicious of all of them.)

I hoped there’d be a stronger storyline to run alongside Alex’s personal struggles…but what was the plot, exactly? Vague suspicions based on paranoia without any definitive crisis? Exciting.

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ONE OF US IS LYING

    ~Five students walk into detention. Only four leave alive.~

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Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life. 

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about how any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

 

A geek, a jock, a criminal, a princess. As Simon comments early on:

“You’re all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”

It had me thinking of a dark, murderous version of The Breakfast Club, especially with that title. (Talk about chills!)

One of Us Is Lying is told in first person, and switches between the perspectives of the main characters. Given that there are four of them and that multiple perspectives are told within a single chapter, I was a bit worried that Bronwyn and Addy, or Cooper and Nate would sort of merge together if their characters weren’t defined enough, and I’d forget who was who and who was doing what (if that makes sense.) So the first few chapters were a bit of a warm-up in getting used to the characters, but as each narrative voice was clear and distinct, there wasn’t an issue.

The plot kicks off from the first chapter, with the characters handling their own sub-plots as the main storyline progresses. What I liked was that even though the subplots were focussed on their own storylines, they still helped to move the main plot along in someway, as they’re all linked together (which is as close to a spoiler you’re going to be reading here!) Obviously these sub-plots were mainly focussed on character development, and given the stereotypical outline of the four protagonists, you can sort of see how their characters would change toward the end of the novel (almost a stereotype in itself) but I wasn’t mad about it.

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DEATH IN DEVON

Cream teas! School dinners! Satanic surfers! Join our heroes as they follow up a Norfolk mystery with a bad case of … death in Devon.    death in devon

When Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, is invited to give a speech at Rousdon school he packs up the Lagonda for a trip to the English Riviera with his daughter and assistant.  But when the trio arrive they discover that a boy has dies in mysterious circumstances. Was it an accident or was it – murder?

 

Murder mysteries set in Devon might be Agatha Christie territory, but I figured one mystery novel is the same as any other. And I was going on holiday there soon, and as it had Devon smack in the middle of the cover, I thought it was a great option to take with me.

Death in Devon is the second in a series by Ian Sansom – the first being The Norfolk Mystery – with plans, it looks like, to write a novel for each county. (And there are a LOT of counties. So a long series, if that’s where Sansom’s taking it.) The end of my edition mentions the third instalment being set in Westmorland, so the series has continued past the second book, which, if I’m honest, surprised me. I’m honestly not sure it’s compelling enough for readers to want to follow through however many books there’ll end up being, because I’d honestly lost all interest loooong before the end.

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THE LARK

It’s 1919 and Jane and her cousin Lucilla leave school to find that their guardian has gambled away their money, leaving them with only a small cottage in the English 20180527_222919 (1) countryside. In an attempt to earn their living, the orphaned cousins embark on a series of misadventures – cutting flowers from their front guardian and selling them to passers-by, inviting paying guests who disappear without paying – all the while endeavouring to stave off the attentions of male admirers, in a bid to secure their independence. 

I only knew Nesbit as a children’s writer from her popular novels The Railway Children, and Five Children and It (neither had interested me when I was younger so I’ve never read them), but it was during a university module that I was introduced to some of her other work – a collection of short stories titled The Book of Dragons. For such an old book, I was surprised by its contemporary feel and the sense of humour you might not expect from a female writer of the 19th century, especially in a book for children. I had no idea about her other short story collections or adult novels, but was keen to see what they were like, so when I saw The Lark as part of The Penguin Women Writers series, I had to get it.

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THE CALL

On her birthday, Nessa finds out the terrible truth about her homeland, Ireland – the truth that will change her future forever. That she and her friends must train for the most dangerous three minutes of their lives:

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That any day now, without warning, they will each wake in a terrifying land, alone and hunted, with a one in ten chance of returning alive.

And it is Nessa, more than anyone, who is going to need every ounce of the guts, wit, and sheer spirit she was born with, if she – and the nation – are to survive.

The book’s cover is adorned with skulls, and the intriguing tag line: ‘You have three minutes to save your life.’ It sounds dark and urgent, more thriller than fantasy…but is it a little misleading? Maybe a bit, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The faerie folk (or Sidhe), and the grey land in which they reside are suitable terrifying. O’Guilin has created an imaginative and horrifying world, full of terror and suspense. Nothing makes you read on with bated breath, quite like the concept of a hopeless cause in a fight for survival. You sympathise with every character unlucky enough to receive ‘the call,’ and hope they survive until the end. These sections are nicely interspersed throughout the novel, picking up the pace where it’s needed, and keeping the sense of urgency going from beginning to end.

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THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE

synopsisPatrick Ness

Not everyone has to be the chosen one.

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death.

What if you were Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

And what if there are problems bigger than this weeks end of the world and you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life?

Even if your best friend might be the God of mountain lions.

                          

Minority groups have always been pushed into the background of novels, particularly where fantasy is concerned.

They reside in the bulk of stock characters, and hover on the outskirts of the action. On occasion one might crop up as a secondary character, as part of the group that trail after the protagonist as she/he saves the day, but rarely being in the limelight themselves.

In The Rest of us Just Live Here, Ness explores the typical events of a YA fantasy novel from the perspective of these overlooked characters, representing different sexualities, disability, colour, size, age. From this turn in perspective, the background characters have flipped to consist of the ‘chosen ones,’ of which we are normally used to following as the novel’s protagonist. Rather than being unique and special, they’re indistinguishable from each other, as Ness satirises the stereotypes of the blank, one dimensional characters, usually reserved for characters of minority.

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